December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
There were two lessons to be drawn from the "Swaggerville" phenomenon of 2011 that would seem to be germane to discussions surrounding the current incarnation of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
First, yes, it is absolutely true that a dominating defence can carry a team a long, long way in the CFL, even in the presence of a poor offence.
And second, no, a defence alone cannot win a championship.
Those two lessons from 2011 -- in which a Herculean Bombers defence dragged an anemic offence to the Grey Cup game only to fall short to a much more balanced B.C. Lions squad -- seemed especially relevant Tuesday afternoon at the end of Bombers practice at Investors Group Field.
As a deservedly self-satisfied Bombers defence made its way from the field, the normally mild-mannered Gary Crowton hastily gathered his offence around him and then promptly lit into them for the better part of the next minute at a volume and with language that would have made even Casey Creehan -- who talks like that over morning coffee -- blush.
We need to be better and I want everyone to be focused... we're coming off a big win and I want all of them to be focused on what's in front of them right now'
-- Gary Crowton
Questioning their "professionalism" among other shortcomings, Winnipeg's offensive co-ordinator left little doubt about what he thought of his offence's efforts in their first practice back since a gutsy, but deeply flawed, 19-11 win in Montreal last Thursday.
His message, Crowton explained moments later to a reporter, was that he expects the Bombers offence in 2013 to begin delivering, immediately, exactly what Creehan's defence has already been delivering -- excellence and victory.
"We need to improve. We need to be better and I want everyone to be focused," said Crowton. "I think we have a good game plan for this week, we're coming off a big win and I want all of them to be focused on what's in front of them right now.
"That's what that was all about."
Indeed, if there was any singular conclusion to be drawn from last week's win over the Alouettes, it's that this Bomber team's defence is light years ahead of the offence in terms of its readiness and execution.
And Crowton's not the only one who thinks it's time the offence woke up. Bombers head coach Tim Burke was asked point-blank following practice if it is finally time the offence starts playing as effectively as the defence.
"Yeah, it is," Burke replied without skipping a beat. "I didn't think we had a very good practice today on offence. And I think that's what had (Crowton) pretty fired up."
Now, there is both good and bad news for the Bombers offence heading into Week 3.
On the downside, this 1-1 club is going to be without the services this week -- and likely longer -- of all-star slotback Terrence Edwards, who has a bad shoulder. (Expect to see import receiver Isaac Anderson take Edwards' spot in the lineup, Burke said, before adding that Doug Pierce also has a shot at the job.)
But on the upside, the Bombers play next in Guelph on Saturday against a Hamilton team that is winless after two appalling defensive efforts in losses to Toronto in Week 1 and Edmonton in Week 2.
There's been nothing quite like a date with Hamilton the past two seasons to make a Bombers squad that is on a 6-1 run against the Ticats feel good about themselves. And if ever this offence -- so carefully broken down and rebuilt by Crowton during the off-season -- is going to break out, you would think it would be against a sad-sack Hamilton defence that is last in the CFL in sacks allowed, touchdowns allowed, points allowed, rushing touchdowns allowed, passing touchdowns allowed, average yards per pass, average yards per rush... well, you get the picture.
No wonder, then, that Crowton doesn't want this opportunity to slip away for a Bombers offence that is similarly near the bottom of the league, having turned over the ball more than any other team in the CFL and leading only Montreal in first downs and average yards of offence per game.
"We've got a lot of new stuff in (the game plan this week) and this is professional football -- it moves fast," Bombers QB Buck Pierce said when asked about Crowton's rant.
"I think he just wanted to send a message to all our guys that this is a weekly process. You have to get better each week, you have to improve each week. We're going to have some new guys in the lineup, I'm sure, and those guys have to step up.
"Everybody's got to continue to roll and build on what we've done."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2013 C3